Since the beginning of this school year many changes have been made, or proposed to be made, in order to help improve the graduation rate and student performance. Dr. Tony Bennett, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, delivered the first State of Education address outlining his thoughts and plans to improve Indiana’s education system by evaluating teachers and administrators based on the performance of their students. Research shows that the top two factors for student success are a high quality teacher and attendance, so it’s important that both of these issues rise to the top of our priority list.
Dr. Eugene White, Superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools, proposes that one of the best ways to address student absences and/or tardiness is to contact Child Protective Services to report the parents for educational neglect. This may be a scare tactic, but is it really going to lead to increased attendance? White was quoted as saying, “If we report it, then that puts the ball in their court.” What responsibility are the schools taking for lack of student attendance? What efforts are being made to engage parents to find out why students are late or tardy before CPS is contacted? Weekly reports on attendance are being made available to parents online. Have all parents been made aware of this resource and how they should respond if they discover their child is chronically absent or tardy? And what about those parents who don’t have easy access to the internet?
In the same article where Dr. White talks about contacting CPS, Northwest High School is highlighted for the efforts they have made to maintain an attendance rate of approximately 97% for several years. They have accomplished this by implementing weekly in-school court to handle tardiness cases, hall sweeps to ensure students are in class, and providing an environment to make students feel safe and cared for. Why are these strategies not being implemented throughout other IPS schools?
The Marion County Commission on Youth (MCCOY) is heading up two initiatives—Early Intervention and Prevention (EIP) Initiative and Drop-out Prevention/Student Success—focused on improving outcomes for children, including reducing and preventing child abuse, neglect and delinquency, and increasing student success and graduation rates. The work of both of these initiatives has focused on identifying best practices, highlighting assets in our community, and noting the things that are proving to be effective in our school systems.
There are many youth serving organizations in Marion County that are able and willing to partner with school systems to focus on attendance and other behavioral issues. For example, Reach for Youth collaborated with a middle school last year to operate a Teen Court program on-site monthly to address behavioral issues that would have typically resulted in suspension. Using Teen Court as an alternative to suspension yielded outstanding results. Throughout the school year 19 youth were served and the school reported that 17 of the students completed all consequences and had no further school behavioral problems and in most cases academic performance improved. Parents and youth participants indicated over 90% satisfaction with the program on the post-evaluation survey. In fact, the program was so successful that officials from the middle school have asked Reach for Youth to increase programming in the 2010-2011 school year to serve 54 students. Are other schools interested in having this model replicated in their school?
The Early Intervention and Prevention (EIP) Initiative has been working with a group of school representatives since January 2010. The school representatives have provided the EIP staff with invaluable insights into the positives, strengths, and challenges faced by the school systems. They have highlighted best practice models, as well as discussed practices they would like to see implemented that would ultimately impact their students positively. A three-year strategic plan has been developed including a strategy and task force specifically recognizing the very important role school teachers, administrators, and staff play in keeping kids safe, engaged, healthy, happy and successful.
Terry Spradlin from the IU’s Center for Evaluation & Education Policy has put forth several recommendations from an April 2010 report on truancy from the Finn Institute for Public Safety:
• consistent attendance policies, known to all students, parents, staff and community agencies;
• a continuum of prevention and intervention services;
• meaningful parental involvement;
• data-driven decision making;
• quasi-judicial proceedings; and
• public awareness campaigns
Between the EIP Initiative and the Student Success Team, MCCOY is making efforts to ensure that all of the above is implemented throughout all of the school systems in Marion County.
To learn more or join in MCCOY’s efforts please contact Shanna Malott, Early Intervention Community Coordinator @ firstname.lastname@example.org.